Stas Pogorsky is experimenting.
2020 was the year of global gaming updates: a new generation of hardware from Sony and Microsoft, Oculus Quest 2, a powerful line of Nvidia RTX 30xx and a reduction in the cost of previous video cards with ray tracing… gaming PC instead of Xbox, then decided to take the MacBook along with both consoles. As a result, I implemented the second scenario, but with an unexpected twist: I didn’t take the MacBook on Intel (which I talked about in the column), but the newest MacBook Pro on the Apple M1.
It turned out that this experimental device on the new platform is much better friends with games than it seems at first glance.
What is good and bad M1 for games
Apple’s own chip on the ARM architecture immediately deprives the gamer of the remaining comfort zone: you cannot install Windows on the new MacBooks. And you can’t connect an eGPU (a regular video card in a special external case) either. And the M1 works differently than Intel processors — it’s a different platform that many developers are just about to get acquainted with.
Apple understood this and made the built-in Rosetta 2 utility, an under-the-hood program that automatically converts Intel applications to M1 applications. Judging by the tests, about 15-20% of the performance is lost, which, of course, is bad. Only the M1 is natively faster than most Intel-based Macs, so even with a crutch, games run just as well, and sometimes a little better.
A few examples. Dota 2 on a MacBook Pro runs through Rosetta 2 and still gets 45-60 FPS at 1440 by 900 pixels on medium-high graphics settings — even during fights with tons of effects. League of Legends has not yet received optimization, but it works even better: on the base MacBook Air, the game gives out about 70 FPS at maximum settings in 2K resolution, and Pro shows even slightly more stable numbers. Even the very demanding Shadow of the Tomb Raider gives out about 30 FPS on a «foreign» platform without a discrete graphics card — the same story with indecently heavy Borderlands 3.
Another thing is that there are practically no games with native support for M1 now. The only significant example is World of Warcraft, which received support for a new processor on the day of its release. And the result is impressive: the game runs at a near-perfect 60 FPS at high graphics settings, even at 2K, something that the base MacBook never dreamed of before.
Things are not going well with Steam
Perhaps the main disappointment and inconvenience lies in Gabe’s platform. Steam itself turned out to be the only program in the month of using the MacBook Pro, which slowed down and slowed down, and just when scrolling through the list of games in the library. The latest update seems to have fixed this issue.
Steam found Kryptonite in an otherwise surprisingly good Rosetta 2: The Talos Principle, available on Mac, instantly crashes with a black screen due to an incomprehensible error. And here, let’s say, Hades works fine.
Hades is Pasha Pechenkin’s game of the year. Indie hit that beats AAA releases
But in order to comfortably play the main roguelike of 2020, you need to either connect a mouse or a gamepad. The latter are perfectly supported in MacOS — the Xbox One controller connected via Bluetooth as easily as on Windows — but the game itself did not see it. Steam, when switching to Big Picture, offered to install the driver, but it didn’t work out — MacOS Big Sur was indignant that some ancient software was trying to invade the system.
Valve is in no hurry to update the driver for the new operating system — it is clear that a small percentage of users play on MacOS, but this is somehow a shame. Fortunately, you can still make the gamepad work: to do this, you need to boot the system in debug mode and enter a couple of commands in the terminal… Dancing with a tambourine, thank you very much.
In short, Steam on a Mac with the M1 isn’t the best experience, but it’s acceptable. Which could be great in the future if Valve makes a little effort — so far thanks also for the ability to filter Mac games in both the library and the store.
Here’s what is almost pointless to use on a Mac, so it’s the Epic Games Store — except to launch Fortnite. This store has almost no products for the «apple» operating system, even the corresponding versions of games that have been available for MacOS on other sites for a long time.
Cloud services as insurance
I myself have not yet really entered the cloudy future, so I will mention the possibility itself. Yes, when it comes to gaming, the MacBook on the M1 is no match for top-end gaming laptops or PCs with new graphics cards. The problem is partially solved by the GFN service and the like — cloud gaming, which allows you to launch even demanding new items via the Internet, as if on your own hardware. It’s not exactly the same, of course: shooters can experience a subtle delay, and at the release of Cyberpunk 2077, you were stuck in queues for a game to launch for a week.
I didn’t manage to play my consoles on my MacBook remotely. Xbox on MacOS, as expected, does not have the right application — a quick search suggested that the paid (of course) OneCast program could replace it. But the PS Remote Play application is officially available, but for some reason it didn’t work to connect it to the PS5 — it seems my router is to blame.
Yes, yes, yes, talking about games on computers and laptops usually means AAA-class titles and other serious things. But it’s foolish to completely ignore the more casual stuff available through an Apple Arcade subscription. A small monthly fee, but without ads and donations.
Everything here is mostly cartoonish, the library is not very large, but sometimes taking a break from work is just right. There’s Hot Lava 3D platformer, Rayman Mini’s beautiful 2D scroller, Oceanhorn 2 Zelda clone, Samurai Jack action, What the Golf? and not only.
Black magic: you can run almost any game with Windows
During my brief interaction with MacOS, I learned that there are no less crazy enthusiasts on Macs than on Windows and Linux. Several of them got together to write CrossOver, a program that allows you to run most Windows applications using virtualization. Yes, even on M1.
The result is the ability to play even things like Metro Exodus and The Witcher 3. The latter runs at high settings at 1080p at about 45 FPS with a few graphical bugs. That is not ideal, but quite comfortable way to play. And it’s very cool that this is possible practically on an ultrabook, which does not really heat up and does not make noise.
As you can see, playing on the new MacBooks is really real. Another thing is that while gaming opportunities are limited, although they cover all basic needs and in many ways exceed expectations from the new platform. The main thing is that different user crutches show the huge potential of Apple’s new machines — let’s see how it is implemented, for example, in Baldur’s Gate 3, which they promise to soon adapt to M1.
Review of Cyberpunk 2077 by Stas Pogorsky: good action, but no RPG
Astro’s Playroom is my game of the year. The only nextgen of 2020, albeit a small one
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